Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
"Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.- Charles Lindbergh"
My very first thought:
For a long time, there was an insatiable desire and curiosity in me to explore the world’s amazing landscapes and go to the end and see the planet's greatest treasures. Being driven by a great sense of exploring nature’s creativities i.e landscapes, I always had a second (or more than that) thought of visiting the Isle of Skye and the Scottish Highlands. One reason is because of the massive amount of time (~10 hours from Edinburgh) and the exhausting journey it would be considering different flights and train travels. Second, I always doubted my endurance in exploring and hiking these high terrains and gigantic mountains amidst the Winter season. But I did read somewhere, if you follow what you love, the journey would not be straight.
However, considering these aggravating thoughts as my inner battle of nervousness and reluctance, I finally went ahead of planning my second solo trip to the European continent and took all the hesitation and nervousness to be taken care of later.
Traveling to the Isle of Skye:
A quick insight into the time taken to reach the Isle of Skye:
London flight (~9hrs 15 mins), Layover (5 hrs 10 mins), Edinburgh flight (~1 hr), transition in 3 different trains (~8hrs 40 mins) = ~ 24 hours. ( Of course, took a 2days stay in Edinburgh city)
Modes of Transportation:
From Edinburgh, I booked the Scott Rail which would consist of 3 different trains covering
stations: Edinburgh-> Inverness->Sterling->Kyle of Lochalsh.
stations: Edinburgh-> Inverness->Sterling->Kyle of Lochalsh.
Finally, reaching the Skye:
The train journey from Waverley Station, Edinburgh would take you to the end of Scotland's point where the last station is Kyle of Lochalsh. The Skye bridge connects the mainland with Skye island and is a magnificent architecture one could find among the rugged landscape around. I met my fellow group members who were so generous to be waiting for me at the station to give me a lift and that’s where our amazing 3 days of the journey began.
Beginning of Photo workshop:
Our mentor Nigel drove us to our cottage located in the Sligachan base surrounded by misty snow-covered mountains in the background and mini water pools around it. Later, I realized that the cottage where we stayed for 3 nights was itself a well-known photo location on the Isle of Skye photographers. It was indeed like a movie set where you are just surrounded by nature and it’s an amazing beauty and no one left to bother you anymore.
From my experience of Tuscany, Italy, I assumed all the great locations in the Isle of Skye to be approachable and would involve only a couple of minutes of walk to reach the majestic highlands. That false belief was well enlightened when we had to explore the “The Old Man of Storr and Quirang. Both of these destinations involved hiking of 2-3 hrs or so to reach their respective heights of them. Climbing the Scottish highlands is no walk in the park but the only thing that gave me a push was the anticipation and curiosity of what lies ahead. The view indeed brought a sense of closeness to nature and the enormous power it has to create these open horizons and vast ranges. Being in the early time of winter, one has to keep a fight with cold shivering winds blowing from the open sea coast visible from distance. Being a photographer and an explorer, we all do tend to aim for taking great photograph that makes us feel something more important about ourselves.
A quick insight into top locations in the Isle of Skye:
The Quiraing is a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The Quiraing walk is an essential walk for any photographer as it passes through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. As part of the Trotternish Ridge, it has been formed by a massive landslip that has created high cliffs, hidden plateaus, and pinnacles of rock. Considering our first photo location during our workshop, we all were super excited to finally see the Scottish highlands and experience its beauty of it. The hike almost took an hour or so to reach a favorable location from where we could get an amazing view of the vastness and hilltops as well. Though the walking trail was beautifully laid, it was still narrow and might give you goosebumps while looking down on the other
The Old Man of Storr
The majestic "Old Man of Storr" in Isle of Skye, Scotland: spiky pinnacles of rock set against the backdrop of rolling green hills and the coastline of the Isle of Skye. We started early around 6ish in the darkness of the morning to reach the location. After being parked at the base, we made sure our lights were good and had warmers well suited as it was freezing with cold winds blowing around. With muddy paths and slippery rocks, we somehow managed to hike the trail as we had a firm belief in our mentor Nigel who was used to the trail of these highlands. It took us more than 70-80 mins to hike to the top ( not sure about the time taken by others ). It was all wet due to rain last night and the angle of inclination was pretty high. However, we forgot all the pain and high altitude issues the moment we reached the top and were blessed with the endless view of the seacoast and course, the Old Man of Storr.
The Fairy Pools
Compared to other locations that would take tough hiking, it was quite easy to reach the famous Fairy Pools and our body was pretty relaxed with no hiking involved in it.
It usually is a long trail for walking in plain sight to reach the exact location. To get a good shot of these water pools, we took our tripods and went to the edges of these pools and captured a few long exposure shots as well. Also, considering the end of November, it was not as occupied as it is during the summer season and we were lucky to enjoy our time there. As it was our last location for a photo shoot, it indeed was a mix of feelings as our workshop had come to an end.
The Scottish Highlands and its vastness:
The Isle of Skye seems to have its state of soul and personality that affected our very own mind and consciousness. Amidst all the challenges of heavy trekking, cold winds, and altitude that were brought upon us, my mind was highly gratified around the compelling highlands and vastness of the landscape. With its composure of wet soil and rocks, the walking trail itself was both a challenge and an unforgettable experience we could have while exploring the best location to put our camera gear and capture the disappearing movement of clouds and light. So, remember even the scenic beauty of the landscape is not stationary as it does changes with the course of light and clouds.
Time well spent:
Being part of the photo workshop group was indeed a pleasure and a great learning experience surrounded by photographers who had spent years in the field and I was just lucky enough to sit with them, and know about their life journey, and their approach toward photography. The 3 days indeed were a memorable time that consisted of our daily 8-10 hours of travel to photo locations, enjoying cottage-cooked meals, and having evening sessions regarding expect of landscape photography. Before the start of my trip, I was very skeptical about my staying with them however it indeed turned out to be a great interaction of all time.